June 18, 2020 

Dallas Wings’ Tyasha Harris, Ex-Gamecock, Wins SEC Female Athlete of The Year

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Tyasha Harris was five months into her freshman year at the University of South Carolina when the entire trajectory of her collegiate basketball career turned.

“It kind of happened pretty fast,” Harris told The Next. “I was thrown into the fire my freshman year in the middle of the season when Coach (Dawn Staley) made a big change in the lineup by putting me in the starting lineup. That was a big thing to me too because that’s something not a lot of people get to say.” 

As a point guard – synonymous with being the extension of the coach on the floor -Harris already possessed leadership tendencies. After being thrust to the forefront, she took those natural inclinations and partnered them with support she received from teammates. 

“I just learned from the captains above me; A’ja Wilson and Alaina Coates, they taught me a lot,” Harris said of the two current WNBA players and her former college teammates. “And once I got to my junior year and the majority of the team was younger than me, I had to take an even bigger role and think about leaving a legacy and actually being that leader that they needed me to be.”

So she did and ended up being that and much, much more.

After taking over the starting point guard role in January of her freshman season, Harris was at the helm for the Gamecocks’ 2017 NCAA National Championship, two SEC Regular-Season Championships (2017, 2020) and three SEC Tournament titles (2017, 2018, 2020). The Gamecocks won 84.3 percent (118-22) of the games she played, including 85.9 percent (55-9) of regular-season SEC games. In 55 career games against ranked opponents, she led her team to a 38-17 mark (.691).

And on Wednesday she was named the 2019-20 Roy F. Kramer SEC Female Athlete of the Year, the second Gamecock in the last three seasons to claim the award and the fourth since the inception of the award in 1976. 

“I’m just blessed to receive this accolade among many other great athletes in the SEC,” said Harris, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft by the Dallas Wings “It is a great honor to be recognized with this award when there were so many others who could have won it as well,” “I am beyond happy for this award not just because of all the time and hard work I put in, but because it’s also a product of the love and support from my teammates and coaches. They continuously pushed me to get better and better every day.”

Without trust, Harris said, her ascension to Gamecocks starting point guard wouldn’t have worked out.

“They trusted me as a freshman to lead this team and be an extension of Coach on the floor, so I really give it to my teammates because they instilled confidence in me.”

Harris is a three-time All-SEC selection, a consensus All-American and is the first Gamecock to record 700 assists, finishing with 702 to rank 10th all-time in the SEC. Harris also holds the school record for career assist-to-turnover ratio at 2.55, and she is tied for the program record with 139 games played. In addition to her 11 double-doubles, the most points-assists double-doubles in program history, she ranks among the program’s top 10 in seven other career categories – free throw percentage (. 792, 2nd), minutes played (4,168, 2nd), games started (127, 2nd), assists per game (5.1, 3rd), steals (224, 8th), made 3s (135, 9th), 3-point field goal percentage (.328, 10th) and minutes per game (30.0, 10th).

“Ty winning SEC Female Athlete of the Year is the result of her hard work and commitment to excellence both on and off the court,” South Carolina Head Coach Dawn Staley said. “Throughout her career, she has led by example, and it was exemplified when our season ended abruptly due to COVID-19. Ty is a class act who has left an indelible mark on our program.”

Winning SEC Female Athlete of the Year is the second piece of good news Harris received this week. The first was news on Monday that the WNBA would indeed have a season amidst the pandemic that had previously shutdown professional sports.

“I’m super excited. I’ve been anxious through it all,” Harris said. “It’s different for everybody but it’s really different for us because we’re rookies and we haven’t gotten a taste or our feet wet yet. Now this whole thing is different, but I’m super excited.”

Harris said the past few months since being drafted she’s been staying in shape, unsure of when the League would call them to begin.

“And so now that we actually have a set date, it kind of like takes the weight off of our shoulder. Now we can get down to the meat and potatoes of our workout and get ready for the season. I know things will be different, I’m just excited to play.”

When asked which part of her collegiate game will translate well into the WNBA, Harris confidently said her basketball IQ. 

“I think I have a very high IQ and I just know the sense of the game, when to pass the ball, who to give the ball to, controlling the pace, controlling the team, being an extension of Brian (Agler, Wings head coach) on the floor,” Harris said. “I think that’s just the biggest thing; my IQ and how I think about the game.”

As she prepares mentally and physically for her first season in the League, Harris reflects on what motivates her and keeps her going.

“What motivates me are my setbacks, my downfalls, things that I thought would happen differently,” she said. “And my family motivates me too.I do it all for them. I also have two little sisters who look up to me so I have to pave the way for them, too.” 

Written by Dorothy Gentry

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